Saturday, November 13, 2010

Robotic transport meets baby and it's awesome

Robotic mobility for the little ones: "

From Hackaday:

Researchers at the University of Delaware are helping disabled kids by designing robot transportation for them. Exploring one’s environment is an important part of early development. Disabilities that limit mobility can prevent young children from experiencing this. Typically children are not offered a powered wheelchair until they are five or six years old, but adding intelligent technologies, like those found in the UD1, makes this possible at a much younger age. Proximity sensors all around the drive unit of the robot add obstacle avoidance and ensure safety when used around other children. When confronted with an obstacle the UD1 will stop, or navigate around it. The unit is controlled by a joystick in front of the rider but it can also be overridden remotely by a teacher, parent, or caregiver.

[via Robot Gossip]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Haute Couture Blood Bags

Haute Couture Blood Bags:
From Medgadget:


Designer Jihye Lee proposes a different look for blood collection bags featuring a more solid construction, large labeling of blood type, and a look as though it's meant for sale on 5th Avenue.


Link @ Yanko Design...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

3D printing goes mainstream ...beyond rapid-prototyping

3D printing has advanced from being a prototyping tool for designers to a manufacturing implement to make a variety of different objects like prosthetics, medical devices and even houses! Excellent article in today's New York Times about the varied applications and players involved in this exciting new arena.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Geographic Epidemiology with mobile phones and GPS

Terrific piece in today's New York Times on a project to assess the impact of roads and traffic on wildlife. Dr. Ron Ringen, a retired veterinarian has been mapping roadkill on a stretch of highway near his home - he photographs the roadkill and uses GPS coordinates to overlay markers on a Google Map thereby generating a visually rich, real-time display. The project is now growing by leaps and bounds and attracting the attention of government regulatory authorities, insurance companies and environmental groups.

Can you imagine if John Snow had this technology in 1854 long would it have taken him to trace cholera to that contaminated pump on Broad Street ...!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

MIT introduces NETRA: eye exam on a phone

MIT News reports on a new Media Lab technology that could revolutionize the way eye tests are done in the developing world.

from the news site:
Now, a team at MIT's Media Lab has come up with a much quicker, simpler and cheaper way to get the same information — a method that is especially suitable for remote, developing-world locations that lack these expensive systems. Two billion people have refractive errors, and according to the World Health Organization, uncorrected refractive errors are the world's second-highest cause of blindness, affecting some 2 percent of the world's population; all these people are potential beneficiaries of the new system. The team is preparing to conduct clinical trials, but preliminary testing with about 20 people, and objective tests using camera lenses, have shown that it can achieve results comparable to the standard aberrometer test.

I think is representative of what is really going to make mobile health tick: mobile medical peripherals. We've seen this concept work before: mobile glucometers, stethoscopes, and telemedical setups like ClickDisgnostics.

MIT News:
The team will be field-testing the device in the Boston area this summer and will later test it in developing countries. The team already has applied for a patent on the system, named NETRA (Near-Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment), and team members won a prize this year in MIT’s annual IDEAS competition — a contest for inventions and business ideas that have a potential to make a significant impact in the developing world — and were finalists in the 2010 student-run MIT $100K Business Plan Competition.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Marmota Project Could Be the Next Big Thing for Augmented Reality

Augment reality could provide field workers with instant information about a site, it's health, and nearby resources. Project Marmota, while not health-centric (yet, we're going to send an email) could very well provide the tools to make it happen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SciFoo 2010 and its Disney World of Big Ideas

SciFoo is annual gathering of scientists, technologists, and geeks in general held at Googleplex in Mountain View.

SciFoo is 24 hours away. Pretrip planning becomes calm excitement as the participant updates grow on the wiki. The list reads like a runway show of scientists and technologists. Bob Langer, Frank Wilczek, Esther Dyson, Jaron Lanier, Bill Nye.

It’s not a name dropping contest. The list is interrupted by awesome descriptions of new people and ideas that are now on my Must-Meet/Must-See List.
Big Data: Exascale Astronomy

Open-source drug discovery: possible or not?

The Joys and Sorrows of Blogging on a Network

Do We Live in a Multiverse?

What is the minimum publishable unit? And should we start doing it?

Automating Science

Motivating People to Help the World's Poor

Lab Books 2.0
So I plan—the type of planning you'd do at Disney World to make sure you meet your favorite characters. Remember how dad would optimize the schedule to be first in line for Space Mountain and Tomorrowland Transit Authority? That's me scribbling people's bio's and the session suggestions.

We’re not in Florida and it’s not Disney. This is SciFoo at the Googleplex—Space Mountain has the possibility of going to a one of many multiverses according to Alan Guth, and the car designs in Tomorrowland could be explained by evolutionary design instructions presented by Cornell’s Hod Lipson. Instead of Cinderella, we get a Nobel Prize winning physicist, a fossil expert, a baby psychologist, a chemical-informatics-expert-turned-world-economic-data-indexer and a science toy expert. That and a guy who reconstructed Babbage’s Difference Engine.

Out of Legos.

Nature, Wired, Discover, PNAS, and the Science and Technology Sections of the New York Times have come alive.

Disney World turns into a Black Friday frenzy as folks dash to two-day scheduling board to secure session spot. Here's where I am awed the controlled chaos that the SciFoo team creates: Small details like blocking of certain hours for people arriving late. Printing every single
participate picture on the wall so you can recognize cool people to run into. Generous sources of caffeine. Handing out tiny little red notebooks to write anything, because you are swimming in ideas. Tim O'Reilly's strong suggestion to stay off the computer and focus on the content and face-to-face interaction.

Photo taken by Easternblot

Friday night begins to paint a multicolored picture of the weekend.

References to fire hoses are woefully inadequate. I meet up with Vaughan Bell, a British neuropsychologist working in Colombia, to plan a session “The State of Third World Science”. Logistics in place, we check out the outdoor bar, where I find some doughnuts with Michelle Khine and trade notes on lab-on-a-chip systems made from Shrinky Dinks. Carnegie-Mellon’s Adrien Treuille and I seem to be on someone's favorite invite list–we ran into each other at PCAST three weeks ago. The co-developer of Fold It and I trade ideas on nebulizer flow simulation.

Then I run into Simon Field from We’ve never met–but we are on each other's list and spend the next couple days brainstorming ideas for my next medical device. Simon gave me a crash course on DIY optics which led to a laser microscope construction with two webcam lenses he gave me. This will come in handy as a class exercise if I write about instant prototyping anytime soon.

Speaking of writing, it’s textbooks that have the group at 9 AM on Saturday all excited–the future of textbook that is. After that, I’m about to go to Matt Todd’s talk on Open Science but it's 10 AM and realized that Vaughn and I are up in Beirut (the name of the room) to kick off our discussion on Third World Science and Scientists. What else would you do on a Saturday morning in sunny California.

To find out about the conclusions of our talk click here. After this, it’s decisions decisions decisions so I crashed the lightning talks and pay attention to Three Rules for Mad Scientists (Garrett Lisi), Carl Zimmer's Three Rules to be Understood;

From his Blog:

After that, Jonah Lerer describes how to engineer aha moments, I have one of my very own. I run into rapid prototyping guru Hod Lipson from Cornell (Fab@Home). I get a crash course–I get a lot of the these over the weekend— on our RP tech and its future. He went on to host two sessions where he challenged us to describe the killer app for personal fabrication. My money’s diagnostic manufacturing and on-demand drugs for remote regions .

Fabrication, objects, convenience and immediacy took a back seat during a fiery discussion on the Templeton Foundation where I got to meet Dan Barcay of Google and Hal Abelson of MIT–Cambridge geeks tend to gravitate, especially when we can commiserate about the awful weather waiting for us back home. After mentally bracing the upcoming weather we brainstormed on using the new Android Inventor App for interfacing medical technologies in the developing world. Stay tuned for an update from Cambridge on that one.

Back in Cambridge is where you find Derek Lowe, of Vetter Pharmaceuticals who co-presented with Matt Todd on their quest to pursue the first-ever open source drug discovery platform. They are crowdsourcing drug discovery. Everyone can help!

That's in fact the point that Peter Singer is trying to convey when he talks about this book The Life You Can Save and its message about helping the poor through the individual commitments of everyday people.

It's 5 PM and my brain is running faster than I can talk—sentences seem to fade off as constantly get distracted…that’s Tim O’Reilly, wait did that other guy say prototyping structures out of DNA…I want to try Simon’s Air Canon.

I'm next and I’m not going to lie— kind of freaking out because no one voted for my session: DIY Medical Technologies. I'll be happy if 5 people show up–including a friend from MIT. MEDIKit in hand, I find that the room is full, the projector is ready (after some trial and error) and I try my darnedest to focus on being open and candid. We’re not selling research, we’re sharing what’s working and what’s not. This is by far the smartest group of folks I've encountered, let alone present to. They wowed me with their questions, challenge my positions, and played with our gadgets. DIY Medical Tech might make it after all.

As the evening opens up for dinner, I strike to strike a conversation with a bioethicist on the merits of regulatory reform for global health medical devices; schedule prototypes of diagnostics with Hal Abelson, learn about open source microscopy environments from Jason Swedlow.

It's easy, it's friendly and these folks have nothing to prove but everything to share. Disney should learn from Scifoo because for geeks, this is the Magic Kingdom, where we can wish upon a star, or rapid prototype your own.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Fund Open for Medical Technology Innovation in India thanks to Wellcome Trust

Wellcome Trust, the group behind artemisinin and human genome sequencing at the Sanger Institute has just bolstered an existing £80 million initiative to support Indian scientists working on medtech. The project's aim is truly enviable: India and the Wellcome Trust are each contributing £22.5 into a fund for product development of healthcare products.

The press release is sparse on operational details, and that’s what we’re watching out for. The memo says that
“to bring together researchers from both the public and private sectors, largely working in India, to develop innovative new devices, diagnostics, medicines and vaccines that will reach the greatest numbers of beneficiaries, without compromising on quality.”
I hope that includes researchers in other countries, and institutions currently working in the area so that our Indian colleagues won’t have to reinvent the wheel and instead open up their initiatives to co-discovery. I also hope that it can lead impact on the ground and in remote areas and not just a gateway for Indian exports to wealthier markets. That model has been done before, and we sincerely need one that addresses patients living in the lowest economic levels of the pyramid.

R&D for Affordable Heatlhcare Initiative
  • What: Affordable healthcare products for India
  • Who: Welcomme Trust and DBT Alliance India
  • Who can play: Anyone operating in India with or with a project in India
  • More at Wellcome Trust

Quants versus Newtonian Managers

I’ve yet to read the book. As a designer a lot of the descriptions on Design Thinking seem to be obvious in what I do. I’m sure there is more it. In the meantime, The New York Times has a short analysis on how Designs Thinking and Six Sigma (I’m not necessarily a fan) can co-exist successfully.

Chuck Jones at Whirlpool tells the NYTimes:

“Design thinkers, he says, are like quantum physicists, able to consider a world in which anything — like traveling at the speed of light — is theoretically possible. But the majority of people, include Six Sigma advocates in most corporations, think more like Newtonian physicists — focused on measurements along three well-defined dimensions.

Analysis of case studies are great, but as SELCO Solar’s Harish Hande says, go out and create your case study. So whether it’s reengineering, agile management, Six Sigma, or Design Thinking, let’s be on the lookout for groups that leave the best model out there—the one that delivers an impact to the customer (or the patient).

Monday, June 14, 2010


My tweeter feed has resulted in some new blogs that cover global health and global health issues. Check them out!

Florida TB Hospital Reminds the Disease is Closer We Remember

Screen shot 2010-06-13 at 11.09.49 AM.png

The NYTimes is featuring the oldest TB sanatoriums on their cover page. A.G. Holley is a state run facility in Florida that cares for patients who have failed to complete TB therapy. Many of them are being treatment for multiple drug resistant tuberculosis.


Sixty years after it opened, it is both a paragon of globalized public health and a health care anachronism, where strangers live together for months with boredom, pills, pain, contemplation and the same ancient disease that killed George Orwell, Franz Kafka and Eleanor Roosevelt. There used to be 500 patients here, surrounded by brush, with nursing quarters segregated by race. Now, no more than 50 live in the main building, above echoing, empty floors sometimes rented out as a location for filming horror movies.

They have all moved in, like generations past, because they are unable to control their illnesses. Some have traditional TB, the airborne contagion carried by one-third of the world’s population, which becomes a lung-wasting menace in only about 10 percent of the infected. A growing number of others arrive with drug-resistant mutations that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat.


Screen shot 2010-06-13 at 11.10.03 AM.png

One of the things that is interesting about the story is the notion of how the word 'sanatorium' remains part of the hospital's culture. Patients can get dentures, healthcare beyond TB treatment, and even on-site cultural events.

Patients also leave with more than just stronger lungs. Maintaining old sanitarium ideals, Holley offers care beyond TB, whether dentures and eyeglasses or cultural activities, including outdoor classical music concerts for the noncontagious. Many Holley residents who hated arriving end up leaving profoundly changed.

“It’s not uncommon, as patients get better, for them to see this as a second chance at life,” says Dr. David Ashkin, Holley’s medical director, a Brooklynite with a hard-rock ’80s mullet. “It’s very spiritual and life changing to go from nearly dead to alive.”


Screen shot 2010-06-13 at 11.09.36 AM.png

More at NYTimes

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Colorado University Dry-Powder Measles Vaccine device on video

For the last few years, Dr. Robert Sievers and his team have been using Activ-Dry technology to create an inhalable measles vaccine.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Amy Smith listed among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People

MIT D-Lab's own Amy Smith (and my boss) has been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world. We couldn't be more proud!

From the Time Article:

It's fine to help the developing world, but first you have to know what it needs. Amy Smith does.

An engineer and the founder of MIT's innovative D-Lab, Smith, 47, is a former Peace Corps volunteer who spent parts of her childhood in India and Botswana. She's the creator of a hammer mill that converts grain to flour and an incubator that does not require electricity. Her design philosophy is elegant: create simple machines that meet particular needs and then build them locally.

Smith is also a teacher, taking kids to Haiti and Africa, where they design pumps, bicycle parts and other gear people need. Her machines are one of her gifts to the world; the students she trains will be an even more enduring one.

Pentland is a professor in the MIT Media Lab and the director of its entrepreneurship program

Read more:,28804,1984685_1984745_1984806,00.html#ixzz0muErdzw5

Monday, April 26, 2010

Aussie Patch technology could lead to easier vaccine delivery

Australian researchers have developed a transdermal drug delivery system that uses a series of nanoneedles to delivery vaccines just below the upper skin surface.

Being both painless and needle-free, the nanopatch offers hope for those with needle phobia, as well as improving the vaccination experience for young children.

"The Nanopatch targeted specific antigen-presenting cells found in a narrow layer just beneath the skin surface and as a result we used less than one hundredth of the dose used by a needle while stimulating a comparable immune response," Professor Kendall said.

"Our result is ten times better than the best results achieved by other delivery methods and does not require the use of other immune stimulants, called adjuvants, or multiple vaccinations.

Because the Nanopatch requires neither a trained practitioner to administer it nor refrigeration, it has enormous potential cheaply deliver vaccines in developing nations," he said.

Similiar patch systems have developed at Georgia Tech (one of the first articles we saw was back in '98) and HP, but have not been commercialized.

More at University of Queensland

What's that random pill found in the sofa? ID it with Pillbox

Everyone once in a while we see our tax dollars at work on a very creative project. It's pretty simple: an online interface allows you to visually identify almost any pill just by filtering it's characteristics: color, size, scoring, shape. Neat.

more at Pillbox

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

D-Lab Health Goes to Nicaragua!

D-Lab Health class in Nicaragua on a medical expedition. We are looking at a number of hospitals and clinics to find medical hacks, potential design challenges, and useful field exposure. More at

- Jose

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Antivaccination backlash: The sad legacy of Wakefield's False Science

The LA Times is covering this month's news of the Lancet's retraction of Andrew Wakefield's infamous paper linking autism and MMR shots. We applaud the journal in doing the right thing. It's a sad day to think that kids in all sorts of countries have been subject to suffering because of an irresponsible "scientist" set on pushing an agenda.

The LA Times
In 1998, Wakefield wrote and then vociferously hawked an article in the British medical journal Lancet linking autism to the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella). After the council's decision, Lancet this week retracted the article. Among the facts that have come out of the inquiry into Wakefield's research is that two years before his paper appeared, lawyers seeking to sue vaccine makers paid Wakefield the equivalent of $700,000.

After Wakefield's article appeared, vaccination levels plummeted in Britain and declined in the United States, and the diseases they prevented surged. Measles cases increased sevenfold in the U.S.

"One person's research set us back a decade, and we're just now recovering from that," Mark Sawyer, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Radey Children's Hospital in San Diego, told me in an interview.

The article also covers Hollywood crackpots who take advantage of their status and well positioned voices to spread falsehoods:
Romaguera is especially upset by "celebrity science," as exemplified by Jenny McCarthy. The actress and former Playboy playmate claims vaccines made her son autistic but that she "cured" him. There is no cure. McCarthy's antics include yelling at three physicians on "Larry King Live," and exclaiming: "My son died in front of me from a vaccine injury!" Her son is alive, as she later acknowledged.

Yet she'd be little more than an opinionated pinup girl but for being invited to share her "expertise" on "Larry King," ABC's "20/20," "Good Morning America" and other popular shows. All this has helped propel McCarthy's two books on autism to bestsellerdom.

"Celebrities are entitled to support a cause," said Sawyer. "But when they give professional advice, I think that's dangerous."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Smart pills for health – look familiar?

The latest issue of the Economist magazine describes “smart pill” technology – the pill has an embedded chip that, once ingested, can transmit data to an external receiver such as a skin patch or a cell phone.

“…… the coupling of smart pills with wireless networks and mobile phones, allowing the information the pills capture to be beamed to doctors, patients and relatives, turns the technology into “a disruptive innovation about to happen”. Vitality, an American firm, has come up with a cap for pill bottles that telephones hapless patients if they fail to take their medicine on time. Vodafone, a mobile-phone operator, has just set up a mobile health unit in Britain. Orange, a French rival, already offers a service that records measurements from implanted heart monitors and transmits them to doctors via the internet. In Mexico, TelCel, the country’s biggest mobile operator, plans this month to launch a service that allows customers to determine whether they have flu using their mobile phones. Kalorama, a research group, estimates that sales of such services will leap from perhaps $4.3 billion last year to $9.6 billion by 2012.”

We have been talking for some time about the idea of using cell phones as enabling devices to collect and transmit health data. Especially since 4 billion people of the world now possess cell phones. We encourage the students in our medical device design class at MIT to consider incorporating cell phones and ICT to enhance the reach of their global health solutions.

“…There are some potential pitfalls, however. Stephen Oesterle of Medtronic, a devices firm involved in remote patient monitoring, thinks it a bit Orwellian for drug makers to keep such intimate tabs on their customers. He wonders whether spooked patients might disable all this clever kit. Tim van Biesen of Bain, a consultancy, believes that patients will need some kind of financial incentive to use smart pills.”

This is the idea behind XoutTB – our smart global health solution for ensuring drug compliance that combines the learnings of research on economic incentives research with science and technology. Evidently this idea has far-ranging applications.